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One Sings, the Other Doesn't 1977

  • Agnès Varda
  • March 9, 1977
  • 120 mins
  • French
  • Drama
In this story of friendship and reproductive rights, 14 years in the relationship between two very dissimilar women are chronicled. Pauline (Valerie Mairesse) is a middle-class city girl, at odds with her very conventional family. Suzanne (Therese Liotard) is several years older, a country girl with two illegitimate children and another (whom she cannot support) on the way. Pauline loans Suzanne money for an (illegal) abortion. At this point, the two separate and communicate mainly through postcards. Some years later, they meet at an abortion rally, and they have many adventures and stories to share with one another.


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The status of women in society had always been a key theme of Agnes Varda’s work but with L’Une chante, l’autre pas it takes centre stage. This touching portrayal of a close female friendship over a fifteen-year period tells, in microcosm, the story of female liberation in France the 1960s and 70s. The two lead characters appear on the surface quite different; Pauline – later nicknamed Pomme, or Apple in English – rebels against her middle class background to become a singer, while Suzanne, from a working-class rural background, frees herself from dependence on men and parents by finding work in a factory and later a family-planning clinic. What they share in common, apart from great strength of character, is a refusal to submit to the then customary view that a woman’s role in society was to act as a homemaker and mother, while remaining subservient to men. Through their personal journeys we get a flavour of the rapid changes going on in society at that time, especially the growing empowerment of women.


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